Children spending a year in pre-school would boost UK ranking in international education league tables

Researchers predict UK would have risen from 25th to 13th out of 60 in the latest international literacy test

The UK’s ranking in international education league tables would have received a significant boost if all children had spent at least a year in pre-school, according to research.

Researchers at London University’s Institute of Education claimed the UK would have risen from 25th to 13th out of 60 in the latest international literacy test conducted by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development.

The findings come on the eve of the latest international research into pupils’ reading, maths and science standards which will be published tomorrow.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has cited the country’s slide down the league tables in the past decade as evidence for his proposed national curriculum and exam reforms - designed to give a tougher and more traditional edge to what is taught in schools.

The researchers looked at the results of the 12,179 UK pupils who took the latest test in 2009 - and compared them to how much time they had spent in pre-school education, if all had spent more than a year, the results would have seen a significant improvement.

The researchers are therefore optimistic that the UK’s ranking will improve - especially as a result of the Coalition Government’s decision to offer 130,000 two-year-olds from poorer families 15 hours of free nursery education from next September - and double the figure the following year.

“We expect that the rise in free provision for the most disadvantaged two-year-olds will increase their literacy attainments at age 15 and will reduce inequalities in educational performance scores between children from different social backgrounds,” said the study’s authors, Dr Tarek Mostafa and Professor Andy Green.

All three and four-year-olds are already entitled to 15 hours free provision a week but the reforms - introduced under Labour - may not have worked their way through the system at the time 15-year-olds last took the test in 2009.

Meanwhile, an alliance of schools, pupils, councils and teachers’ organisations will tomorrow launch a High Court action over this summer’s GCSE English marking fiasco.

They are seeking an order from the court that those who sat the exam in the summer should have their papers re-graded - as the grade boundaries were raised between the January and the June sitting.  The alliance estimates around 10,000 pupils missed out on a C grade pass as a result.

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